M Train

M Train by Patti Smith 
I loved Patti Smith’s Just Kids, but I loved M Train even more. She is such a wonderful writer. She takes us places, many times to Greenwich Village, for many cups of coffee at Café ‘Ino, but also to Berlin, Reykjavík, Tangier, Mexico City or Tokyo (the leitmotif of the café recurring everywhere). She talks about a favourite book (like Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), and then another (like Peter Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky), and another, and another, and about writers and artists, so we are treated to a beautiful literary incursion. We even discover how she met Katharine Hepburn when working as a clerk at Scribner’s Bookstore, where she used to gather books for Katharine. “She wore the late Spencer Tracy’s leather cap, held in place by a green silk headscarf. I stood back and watched as she turned the pages, pondering aloud whether Spencer would have liked it.” We watch one too many detective series. She praises Akira Kurosawa and about Ran (his adaptation after King Lear) she says that it is an epic that might have caused Shakespeare to shudder (I agree). And we feel her grief, still, so many years (twenty) after losing her husband. She’s nostalgic, but has a “natural optimism” in her as well, as she herself writes.

She somehow reminds me of the characters in Yasujirō Ozu’s films. There is something so nobly quiet about her. It seems that hardly anything is allowed to interfere with her interior life and art … and coffee, and this lack of artifice, her pared-down way of being is what draws you into her story, into understanding the soothing nature of life, despite whatever may come its way.

I usually keep a notebook and pen within arm’s reach when I read a book so that I can write down quotes and different references and I did just that with M Train for a few chapters, then decided to read it uninterrupted. I didn’t want to interrupt that beautiful, natural flow of the narration, floating between present and past. I came back after I finished it to take notes. This book has simply become one of my current favourites.
 

“I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything. Sometimes nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond. I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young we think we won’t, that we are different.”

 
photo: Classiq
 
Classiq Journal

Related content: Just Kids / Chronicles, Volume One / Life Lessons from Akira Kurosawa
 

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Bond Girl Style: Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill 
Like The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) before it and Casino Royale (2006) after it, Licence to Kill (1989) introduced us to one of the best and one of my favourite Bond girls, Carey Lowell. She saves Bond’s back the first time they properly meet, wears her hair cut short and a Berretta up her not one, but two heart-stopping evening dresses and downs a vodka martini in one go, so wouldn’t you agree?
 
Bond Girl style - Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill

Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill

Bond girl Pam Bouvier-Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill
 
The first Bond film based not on an Ian Fleming novel or story title, but on a frequently used phrase within the novels, Licence to Kill is one of the best movies of the franchise, less fun and far-fetched, darker, grittier, using more reverberations and echos of Fleming’s novels, allowing James Bond to function as a human being with fragile emotions. It is a disruption in the narrative tradition of the series, in the vein of In Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and Casino Royale.

“I wanted to make the movies much more realistic and believable”, said Timothy Dalton, who took over the James Bond reins only for two films, The Living Daylights (1987) having been the first one. “Over 25 years these films and this character had gone off down lots of different avenues. There was a whole period where they became rather fantastical and gimmicky. The humour had become too exaggerated, too tongue-in-cheek. When you go back to the books, you’re dealing with a real man, not a superman; a man beset with moral confusions, apathies and uncertainties, one who is often very frightened, nervous and tense.” He takes it personal when his friends get hurt and he goes after the bad guys because he wants to avenge his friends. That’s why we want him to succeed, not because this is supposed to happen in a Bond film. And that’s what makes Licence to Kill a credible and substantial Bond movie.

Screenwriter Michael G. Wilson says they modeled Dalton’s Bond on the hero of Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo, “where the samurai comes to town and, without overtly attacking the villain, does the seed of distrust, then watches as the villain brings himself down.”

Everybody’s goal at the time was to change Bond’s image, to make it more realistic. They indeed brought more humanity to 007, but Timothy Dalton also made a tougher, darker, more serious, and, in my opinion, a damn good Bond. As Fleming insisted, James Bond was “a skilled professional: ruthless and sardonic in his work; gentle, witty, and stylish off duty.” They toughened up the image of Bond from the style point of view as well, getting away from the gentlemanly spy. They changed Bond’s tuxedo look by opening the collar, and even taking the jacket off so Dalton was in his shirtsleeves. His other looks have often been considered far from good for the cinematic Bond. But, in concept only, many were actually pretty accurate for the literary Bond, from whom Dalton drew inspiration, recalling Fleming and his literary creation. It is interesting how both Timothy Dalton and Robert Davi referenced the book Casino Royale as inspiration for the film and for their characters, 17 years before it was finally turned into a Bond film, a new type of Bond film, with a story anchored in reality, and with a Bond who would once again be darker, sharper and edgier, but also more human than the earlier Bonds, except for Timothy Dalton.

Dalton’s partner on screen, Carey Lowell, said of the new Bond: “You usually see Bond as a cool-headed secret agent. Sean Connery always came out unscathed and sort of dashing, and Roger Moore was untouchable in his white suits. Here Bond is not as clean and pretty. He looked like hell. It was not anything a Bond audience had seen before.”
 
Bond Girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill 

Another element that moved the Bond tradition further, reinterpreting key features in the films, was the Pam Bouvier part, which effectively dehistoricised the Bond girl character. We see a shift from the Bond girl type of Ursula Andress in Dr No (1962) and other rather purely decorative women 007 is usually associated with. It had also happened with Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me and Eva Green would follow in Casino Royale. Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier is capable, confident, and competitive with Bond, an edgier, feisty, self-sufficient and credible modern-day Bond girl.

“I portrayed Pam as gritty and tough. When she meets Bond at the bar, she’s wearing a black leather vest and pants, and carrying a sawn-off shotgun. She’s flinging men over her shoulder and smashing bottles on their heads. Quite different from other Bond girls,” said Lowell of her character, a former army pilot and CIA agent. After the leather vest and jeans look from the bar, Pam appears in trousers again, beige and wide-legged this time and paired with a white shirt. When Bond pays her off for flying him to Isthmus, he throws in some extra cash telling her to buy herself “some decent clothes”.

She reemerges with a short hair-cut, a navy and white power-suit-like dress and later on in a black rhinestone-clad gown. Robert Davi, who plays the villain Franz Sanchez, recounts how the idea for the side-slit, backless dress Carey wears at the casino came from the dress that Talisa Soto, Sanchez’s lover and the other subject of Bond’s attention, wore to her audition (director John Glen brought Davi in to consult him in casting the role of Lupe). “In one scene she wore a long evening dress, then ripped off the bottom and it became a short little dress.” Pam looks gorgeous in her dress, but its practicality (it is cleverly designed as beaded rip away gown) also shows that she’s a resourceful ally for Bond.

It is however another halter-neck black dress that I find more beautiful (see the top image in this article), providing another perfect match for Bond’s tuxedo. And my second favourite Pam Bouvier costume in the film is the under-the-knee-long greige dress with a deep v-neck, which Pam is wearing in a few action scenes. Both sophisticated and practical in its modern simplicity. But don’t you love it how time and again she goes back to the trouser look? She does it again with another ensemble of wide-legged pants and white shirt. She’s still a tomboy, and even when she trades in her combat uniform for a sparkly gown, she keeps the attitude and makes sure that everyone is aware of it by having her hair cut short.
 
Bond girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill

Pam surprises Bond with her new look after he tells her to buy herself “some decent clothes”.

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence To Kill

Bond girl style-Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill 
sources: The book The James Bond Archives / Revisioning 007: James Bond and Casino Royale by Christoph Lindbergh / Carey Lowell interview, Cinefantastique magazine, 1989 / interviews with John Glen, Michael Wilson, Timothy Dalton and Carey Lowell on the special features in the film collection Celebrating Five Decades of Bond

photos: movie stills | United Artists
 

Bond Girl style 
Related articles: Eva Green in Casino Royale / Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me / Naomie Harris and Her Alt Bond Girl in Skyfall
 

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Umana Riservatezza

Umana riservatezza. Human privacy. This phrase. This phrase has never had more meaning than now. And this Brunello Cucinelli campaign. It speaks a thousand words and my own thoughts, thoughts I sometimes believe I should speak more often.
 
Brunello Cucinelli umana riservatezza

Brunello Cucinelli’s “Umana riservatezza” campaign

 
 
The Italian fashion brand revealed their humanistic campaign Umana riservatezza earlier this week. It’s a call to protecting our intimacy in a media-saturated world that denies our right and need to privacy. The campaign is attached to their Pitti Uomo presentation and it consists of a few shots of portraits of couples of children or adults, who, in their private moments, hide their faces gracefully. It’s the most beautiful, simplest and most poignant campaign and message I have seen in a very long time. Words are truly unnecessary to describe it.

At the “Consulentia 2018” conference held in Rome in February, Brunello Cucinelli, the founder of the eponymous company, expressed his thoughts:

“Privacy is a kindness of the soul that we ought to show both to those we know and to those we come across. It is also a right we are entitled to, and it’s never pleasant to be forced to demand it, since that spoils the charm of its pure sincerity.

Privacy safeguards our intimate sphere; we need the right amount of privacy in order to harmonize our public and private spheres.

Both our public and private lives are essential, but they benefit our well-being only when there is an appropriate balance between the two.

The wise Epicurus clarified better than many others that the right balance is lost when our public life becomes predominant; discomfort arises because we are deprived of our leisure time, which we need in order to rest our soul. We need time to rest.” (read more extracts from the speech here)
 
Brunello Cucinelli 1995 campaign

Brunello Cucinelli 1995 campaign

 
Every day I witness the intrusion of the digital world in our lives. Parents who regularly put their children on social media, but have eyes only for their phones when they take their kids to the park. Teenagers who are mavericks of the latest smart devices, but seem lost in space and are unable to hold eye contact more than a nanosecond when you are trying to have a face-to-face conversation with them. People who flaunt their perfect love life on Facebook, but who are afraid of human bondage and are incapable of communicating in privacy. People who prioritise screens over humans.

How about that first kiss to remain one of your most guarded and cherished secrets? How about your child’s first vacation to remain your special family memory? How about being happy without shouting it to the whole world? We have forgotten how to talk, write (when was the last time you took notes in a notebook, or even expressed a feeling in an online conversation without inserting an emoji?), read a book, connect, observe, be curious (not by searching Google), we have forgotten to give our shoulder (literally) to our friends to cry on, play with our children, get lost and live. I hope you will reflect over this and, when the weekend rolls in tomorrow evening, think twice before you post that picture-perfect weekend escape on Instagram. Have a good one, far from the madding crowd.
 
Brunello Cucinelli Humanist Artisans of the Web campaign

“Sharing.” Brunello Cucinelli | Humanist Artisans of the Web campaign

 
Brunello Cucinelli - Humanist Artisans of the Web campaign

“Widescreen.” Brunello Cucinelli | Humanist Artisans of the Web campaign

 
 
PS: Have a look at the brand’s Humanist Artisans of the Web, too. How I’d like “sharing”, “mobile phone”, “widescreen”, “music streaming” and “selfie” to take on those new old meanings.

PPS: You now what else is amazing? Brunello Cucinelli is a thriving company, but it is rarely present on social media. There are still many people who do not buy only what the internet tells them to buy, people who appreciate the fine things in life. It feels good to know that. Brunello Cucinelli is one of those few fashion companies with handcrafting and humanity at its soul. The company headquarters are in a 14th century castle in Umbria, which Cucinelli bought and restored in 1985, convinced that a tranquil and beautiful setting would enhance creativity and instill harmony among workers. He says that his company’s purpose is to improve the life and growth of people, the most valuable asset in any business, to make work more human, with people at its core.

photos: Brunello Cucinelli

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Editorial: I’m No Doll

Editorial-La strada Federico Fellini
 

The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema


 
La strada (1954) is part of Fellini’s solitude trilogy made in the mid-fifties, including Il bidone (1955) and Le notti di Cabiria (1957), that displays the director’s move from neorealism to more autobiographical, fantastically-imbued films. It is a road movie, a “joint experience between man and man”, Fellini described it, and which foreshadows another spiritual journey, in La dolce vita (1960). The film had a resounding success, winning the Silver Lion in Venice and the first of his four Oscars for Best Foreign Film.

Giulietta Masina plays Gelsomina, a simple, poor peasant girl sold by her family to Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), a cruel and brutish circus performer. She becomes part of his act. With her bowler hat, shabby clothes and distinctive physical performance, Masina’s innocent wide eyes and round face brought comparisons with Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin’s tramp and Fellini’s Gelsomina share similar gestures and an innocence that helps them meet the world bravely and put up a bluff. Both are reminiscent of the comedian dell’arte characters. Like so many Fellini creations, Gelsomina was born in his sketchbook, but he based the character on the actual Giulietta Masina, especially on portraits of her from her childhood.

“Giulietta has the lightness of a phantom, a dream, an idea. She possesses the movements, the mimic skills and the cadences of a clown,” the director said about his muse and wife. Gelsomina remained the favourite of all the director’s characters, remarks Chris Wiegand in the book Federico Fellini: The Complete Films. So powerful was Masina’s performance that the public called out for a sequel. Manufacturers of dolls and sweets went after the rights for the character and there was even talk about an animated cartoon. Fellini would have none of it. There was a time when money didn’t dictate everything.

photo: film still | Giulietta Masina as Gelsomina in “La strada” | Ponti-De Laurentiis Cinematografica

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Unlikely Style Inspiration: Jaws

Jaws will probably remain about the only blockbuster to have ever been mentioned on Classiq. But it’s a classic, and a blockbuster in the 1970s meant an entirely different thing than it means today. Most importantly though, it’s a good film. Brilliant and terrifying, Hitchcock-style. Jaws (1975) is plain and simple a great adventure movie and one of the most effective thrillers ever made, the kind that keeps you on the edge of your seat, getting you to identify with the characters and asking yourself what you would do if you were them. It is a story that scares the hell out of you from the very beginning (skillfully using the power of the unseen – it is what you don’t see that scares you the most), which is why, I think, it is perfect to watch on the idle days of summer.
 
Unlikely style inspiration - Jaws - Classiq  

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

 
But what I want to talk about today is a little more different. Fashion.

Because you know what Jaws is also about? Three guys in chambray shirts, denim jackets and cotton sportswear take a boat ride off the coast of Amity, New England, in the summertime. Now, all jokes aside, the clothes the three key characters wear are truly timeless. And what truly makes them timeless is that they are “real man shark-hunting gear”. Real men wearing real clothes, which means that anybody can identify with them. Simple, familiar, functional, straightforward and uncomplicated. They know for sure what works and they sure know what doesn’t. Indeed, masculine nautical style is the kind of style that does not age: salt-washed denim and military jackets, black sweaters and grey marl sweatshirts, boat shoes and sneakers, and rugged dive watches. They exude modernity and masculinity.
 
Unlikely style inspiration - Jaws 
But each one of these three guys wears his clothes differently, revealing their distinctive personalities and class differences.

There is Richard Dreyfuss’s Matt Hooper, an oceanographer, a collegiate rich guy. His clothes say Ivy style. The grey marl sweatshirt, for example, is one of the pieces adopted by collegiate preppy style, thus contributing to the transition from its pure functionality, from being strictly a sports garment, to one worn casually. When he goes to chief Brody’s house for dinner, he sports a corduroy jacket with chambray shirt and knitted tie, jeans and boat shoes – the clothes that a well-dressed college man would wear.

Robert Shaw’s rough-edged, old sea dog Quint, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, and everything about his clothing suggests that the last thing on his mind is to impersonate a social creature or to belong. He is as anti-social and anti-conventional as one can be. His clothes serve one purpose and one purpose only: to be worn. His signature long-billed faded cap, blue collar work shirt and fisherman’s jacket not only signal isolation, but the class difference between him and the other two. “You’re a city boy, you’ve counted money all your life”, he tells Hooper, looking at his hands. “Hey, I don’t need this, I don’t need this working-class hero crap”, replies Hooper irritated.

Brody (Roy Scheider) is a middle-class man and his clothes reflect that. He spends more than half of the movie in a cop uniform and Baracuta jacket and it’s interesting to see his style evolve, escaping the restrictions of job and social requirements when he switches to t-shirt, black sweater and jeans when they set sail. He finally seems relieved and at ease when he does that.
 
Unlikely style inspiration - Jaws

Richard Dreyfuss in casual Ivy wardrobe essentials: sweatshirt, denim shirt and, unseen here, jeans and classic canvas shoes.

Unlikely style inspiration - Jaws

Nautical essentials, then and now: chambray shirt, fisherman’s waxed jacket, crewneck knitted sweater, waxed cotton cap

Unlikely style inspiration Roy Schneider in Jaws - Classiq

Roy Scheider in the most democratic look of all: simple t-shirt and blue jeans

 
photos: Zanuck/Brown Productions / Universal Pictures

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